Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Part Six - 1936 and 2012

This is the sixth in a series of blogs on my intent to vote not only for President Obama, but a straight Democratic ticket at the national, state, and local levels. I plan to look at issues that are important to me and I believe important to the American people.

I welcome your responses, whether you are a Democrat, Republican, or something else. I will publish whatever comments you have unless they are mean-spirited or do not speak directly to the issue addressed in this particular blog.

Something a friend sent me yesterday prompted me to look back at the presidential election campaign of 1936. Some of you already know what that “something” was. Even though I hadn't yet been born, I grew up in that year’s shadow and yesterday felt a seventy-six year old wind rustling fall leaves in the 2012 elections already under way.

In 1936 the Great Depression was in its eighth year. President Franklin Roosevelt had been in office for four years and running for his second term. He was still working to push his New Deal economic policies through congress and the courts. Despite the passage of Social Security and unemployment benefits, unemployment stood at 16.9%, well down from the high of 24% at the depth of the Depression but still four times higher what it had been when Herbert Hoover took office in 1928.

The desperate economic conditions FDR inherited in 1932 were exacerbated by the Dust Bowl, the catastrophic dust storms on the southern plains in the 1930s, especially between 1934 and 1936, caused by drought and decades of farming that had displaced the native grasses that kept the soil in place. Although the meteorological epicenter was a relatively small area in the panhandles of Texas and Oklahoma, southwestern Kansas and southeastern Colorado, the effects rippled through an already crippled nation. Tons of dust from the Bowl fell as far as New York City and the Atlantic Ocean. Hundreds of thousands of people had to abandon their homes and farms causing a major social dislocation. The title of Timothy Egan’s chronicle, The Worst Hard Time, was not an overstatement.

Alf Landon was the Republican candidate running against Roosevelt. Kansas Governor Landon was what would become a vanishing breed of “liberal Republicans.” (Does anyone know what former Governor Romney really stands for?) Most of the attacks on Roosevelt and Social Security were from the Republican machine. Landon admired much of the New Deal but complained that it was hostile to business, involved too much waste and was inefficient. 

Against the 1936 background, what I received yesterday makes even more sense: it was a link to a warning to the nation President Roosevelt issued in his 1936 campaign. I resisted the impulse to print the one and a half minute text because I believe it better to hear FDR’s voice. Over these seventy-six years, I had to remind myself that he wasn't speaking to us in 2012.

Watch and listen to it; see if you don’t think it has a most contemporary ring! It is one of the reasons I plan to vote Democratic in this election. What about you?

- Milo

1 comment:

Milo Thornberry said...

A friend sent me this clip of some more insightful humor from FDR: